The farms and houses in the village and the valley were originally built around a wooden frame, using local materials. The frame was then covered with wattle and daub, made from clay and dung, or with woven heather walls. The roofs were thatched, again using heather. Later, houses were built using stone from the fields or the local quarries. The slate for the roofs also came from local mines and quarries. Prior to 1830, nobody was allowed to build on the mosses, because of the danger of flooding.
Many farmhouses still have the hanging shelves, below the ceiling rafters, where haver bread was stored. This unleavened, country bread was made from oats, coarse in texture and made to last! The kitchens had the old fire ranges with a boiler to heat water, on one side, and an oven to bake with, on the other side.
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The new house that "Pont" Pearson built across the road from Lamb Howe, we know today as the Damson Dene Hotel. At first, the farm consisted of the cottage, barn, yard and shippon. When the old man died the house was inhabited by a number of different people, including Mrs. Barraclough and her daughter, who farmed during the Second World War. They took in three boy evacuees from Newcastle. The later history of the building can be found in the chapter on the Pubs, Inns and Hotels.
The Nook Farm was built in the early 18th century. It has a slate staircase and a heavily studded front door, two inches thick. One story is that it was the local jail. Up until the 1980s, it still had rings set into the wall of the kitchen, where it is said that the prisoners were chained.
Alan Newton in his thesis on "Crosthwaite Farmhouses" said that it was thought that a pele tower once stood on the site. There was evidence that it was used as a garrison in the Jacobite Rebellions. Maybe the manacles and chains were used then. The Misses Clark used to live there. Two of the sisters had worked in Windsor Castle, serving Queen Victoria. They recounted, to Pam Bownass, how they attended the funeral of the Queen.
All the staff and servants were issued with a full set of mourning clothes.
They lined the castle grounds, where the cortege passed. Bessie told the tale of how she had to get up at four in the morning, to remove the remains of the coal fires, so that they could be re-lit for the day ahead and how often she ended up with burnt fingers from the hot ashes!
The village bobby, Mr. Richardson, lived in Ormandy House. When Mrs. Sykes was digging in the garden, she found a policeman's belt buckle. It may well have belonged to him. It is now in Kendal Museum.
The hamlet of Pool Bank has, at different times, been incorporated in the Manor of Witherslack and the chapelry of Crosthwaite. Pool Bank dates from 1693 and it is believed to have been built by John and Catherine Hartley. It has also been home to the Atkinsons and Pearsons, both Quaker families.
The centre of Quaker meetings was at South House, Pool Bank. The house was in Crosthwaite Parish and owed dues to St Mary's Church.
Meetings were held in the "Court Room". In Quaker records, it was described as Pow-bank Meeting, but was never registered officially.
George Fox preached there and stayed with Thomas Pearson, on his way to Swarthmoor Hall. There is a large, finger-shaped stone by the barn, where he preached. The family refused to pay their dues to Crosthwaite and Thomas Pearson had 23 hides taken from him, to pay the fine. Those who counted themselves as Quakers, over the years between 1662 and 1832, were the Pearson families at Pow bank and Fell Side and John Cartmell of Low Fell End.
The house has a spinning gallery, where flax was once spun. It was then woven into hodden cloth, a stiff, uncomfortable material, useful for its hardwearing qualities. A hooper's business and swill basket making were also carried out at the hamlet. The wood, to make the coracleshaped baskets, probably came from the coppices nearby.
There is a magnificent panelled hall called the Courtroom, where at least one person has been fined for a misdemeanor! The cellars are reputed to have been used as temporary accommodation for slaves. They were en route to their final destination via boats which docked at Ulverston and Milnthorpe.
As with all old houses, there are tales of a door opening on its own, chains rattling at times and a ghost of a woman, who had been locked in a room and starved to death by her husband!
This little cottage is probably one of the oldest in the village. It was built in the late 17th or early 18th century, on similar lines to The Nook. It has a stone staircase and an ancient bread oven under the stairs.
A Mr. Coward, known as "Auld Shoey", was a cobbler there. He was rather partial to the "demon" drink. Mrs. Noble, his housekeeper, was not. She used to be so infuriated when he was drunk that she would take him by the shirt collar, put his head under the pump and douse him with icy cold water, to sober him up! Later "Fenty" Robinson's widow lived in the cottage. He owned a linen shop on Bowness Brow, selling all manner of materials and pieces of cloth, called "fents". The photograph was taken in 1953 and shows the cottage, still with the outhouse or barn, at this end, which was later made into a sitting room, the old door becoming a window.
Today, there are 28 homes in the Row and no farms. There used to be two working farms, Michael Yeat and Row Farm and one smallholding, Barrow Tenement. Over the years farm buildings have been converted into houses, making up the present number.
The name Michael means "first" or entrance and Michaels' means gate.
This was a farm owned by the Argles family, dating from the early 19th century. It was sold to the Wakefields and then to Joe Walker. The Wilsons had been long-standing tenants. Mrs. Minnie Walker is the daughter of Johnny Wilson. One unusual feature of the house was the communal mangle room, used by all the locals. Minnie tells the story of a servant whose daily job was to feed the pig. Whilst he was on holiday, the pig was slaughtered for the household meat supply. On his return, no one mentioned that the pig had gone. He dutifully fed the non-existent pig for three days before realizing his mistake! In 1882 theWestmorland Gazette reported that there were 64 acres to let at Michael Yeat, "occupied by W. Simpson. The lowlands are subject to flood but the owner is to remedy this by pump power. Apply to John Burrows, Hill Top."
These houses in the Row are all, unusually, named after trees. Harold Elleray lived at Pear Tree. His father bought the old black-leaded range in 1926. It is still in place. In 1788 the cottage was sold for the princely sum of £40! In 1847, when Thomas Graveson bought Pear Tree it had gone up in price to £47/10/ 0.
Harold Elleray's uncle, Dick Elleray, lived at Spring Bank Cottage. He was the first person in the Lyth Valley to have electric lights. He was a very clever electrical engineer. All the residents in The Row took their two volt, lead acid, wet batteries to him to be charged. They paid him 6d a battery, which saved them the journey to Windy Yapp's at Bridge End.
He invented and built one of the first wireless sets and so, of course, was able to undertake set repairs. His GP at Milnthorpe knew him well. He built the first X-ray machine in the area, to be used outside of hospitals and it served the doctor well. Harold remembers standing on a plinth and looking over the screen to watch his heart beating! Harold took after his uncle, becoming a teacher of electrical engineering. George Richardson, the local coal merchant during and after the Second World War, lived here after Mr. Elleray.
Virginia Cottage is a quaint, old, typical country cottage, perhaps the oldest in Lyth. The present owner is Mrs. Gutteridge. She has lived there since 1949 and has maintained its old-world charm.
A spice cupboard, dated 1682, is to the left of the fireplace, with its crane for hanging cooking utensils. The low-beamed living room leads to a spiral staircase. On a cupboard, in the bedroom, there is a plaque depicting a religious scene.
Row Farm, which was originally built in 1774, became part of the Argles Estate. In 1865 the farm, and its 119 acres, was tenanted by William Turner. He was followed by John Barrow Jackson, his son, Jimmy, and grandson, Alan. Alan was a very inventive farmer, converting old cars to act as tractors. His Uncle Storey was the man to repair your bicycle or motorbike. His workshop was a corrugated shed, part of the farm buildings. In the 1990s the land was divided between other Argles properties and the farmhouse and buildings sold. Bill Sharp, then living at Flodder Hall, bought the house, while the outbuildings were converted to dwellings by developers.
This old-world cottage has a low-beamed ceiling and the dining room still incorporates a slate bench, reflecting its earlier use as a dairy.
Previous owners have been the Stackhouses, Taylors, Brackens and Prestons. The present owners, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, have altered the adjoining barn and stables to enlarge the house. The house has a reputation for being haunted!
This is a farmhouse of the old style, where the barn and animal housing were next to the living accommodation. It was previously owned by the Argles family, who sold it to the present owners, Mr. and Mrs. John Wilson.
An old barn in the Row used to serve as a Methodist Chapel. Mr. R. Turner of Brigsteer opened it on 3rd May 1885. The Sunday School opened three years later in 1888. Mr. Elleray was the main preacher and his family owned the barn, as well as Spring Bank and Sibble Howe Cottages, in the same hamlet. The chapel had an old harmonium, which accompanied the congregation in their singing. At the front there was a raised wooden platform, from which the sermon was delivered. Barrow Jackson, from Row Farm, also preached in the chapel. The first pupils in the Sunday School were James and Thomas Jackson, Joseph and Thomas Park, John William Park, Frank Taylor, James Moss, Eleanor Jane Moss, Mary and Margaret Strickland, Agnes Jackson, Clara Park and Edith Moss. Brian and Marilyn Shuttleworth live there now.
Mr. Elleray erected the "village hall", opposite Spring Bank. John Wilson remembers that they had film shows there. Sports Day for the children was held in the field opposite. They would come into the hall for tea and there would be "a bit of a dance" afterwards. A current villager now refers to this building as the "chicken hut"!
The first school house stood next to what was St Mary's Chapel, in the 19th century.
Later, Crosthwaite and Lyth Parish Council bought what is now known as Spring Cottage and let it to successive head teachers of Crosthwaite School. Mr. Prickett, Mr. Frankland and Mr. Hall all lived there. Mr. Frankland did not want the upheaval of modernisation but Mr. Hall had piped water and other more modern amenities installed. These were paid for by the sale of part of the garden, with planning permission for two houses. When Mr. Hall left the school, the cottage and remaining garden were sold to Mr. and Mrs. John Dean, who still live there.
This old manorial farm was built in the early 17th century, by Tobias Atkinson, of Pool Bank. Tobias was a highly respected parishioner, a great benefactor, a member of various committees and holder of many trusteeships. His money benefited both the old and poor and the young at Crosthwaite School.
The name "spout" is a local word for a spring, coming out of a rock. The house is a lovely, old building, unaltered outside but beautifully modernised inside, whilst still retaining the old features. The stone balls, on the gable ends, signify that Tobias Atkinson was the owner of the property, not a tenant. The house has fine examples of the Westmorland round, stone chimneys.
On the front gable, there is a large, round, stone ornament, known as a "pigeon stone", a favourite resting place for birds. Tradition has it, that it is in place of the old custom of having a replica of your enemy's head, on a stake near the door!
Beside the kitchen fireplace is an old spice cupboard, with the initials T.A.M. and the date 1709. The floors are slate flags and the doors have the original wooden panels. The staircase has "dog gates" at the bottom and a square landing, with a window overlooking the farmyard. In the parlour, there is a fireplace, with oak cupboards on either side. The one on the left has an oriel shaped interior, fitted with narrow shelves.
The attics remain as they always were. The Quakers used them in 1994 as the setting for George Fox, played by Paul Eddington, writing in his garret. Jim Bownass, of BVS Productions, Crosthwaite, filmed the scene.
Recently, during removals, a window was uncovered in an outside wall, with its original, mullioned glass. It may, like others, have been bricked up to avoid the window tax. This tax was first introduced in 1696 and repealed as late as 1851. In an inventory, dated 1777, four Atkinsons are mentioned in Crosthwaite, three having seven windows and a fourth, eleven.
In the early 20th century, John Gardner and his family lived at Spout House and farmed the land around it. Their large family included five girls, all of whom worked outside on the farm. Dick Gardner, who ran the Post Office, was a brother to the girls.
The farm is one of the few remaining working farms in the village. The Wilson family keeps dairy cattle and sheep. Pat has diversified into bed and breakfast, notable for the delicious breakfasts! She makes and ices celebration cakes and produces wonderful mounds of meringues for the New Year festivities held in the Village Hall.
Strickland Tenement was built around 1714. The whole house is built into the side of the hill. The floor of the main kitchen/living room is seven feet below ground level at the back of the house. There was a "beef loft" over the original hearth in this room. At Middlemas (November) animals were slaughtered to provide food for the winter. The carcasses were hung and smoked over the fire on hooks, which can still be seen today. The spice cupboard bears the initials TER and a date of 1714. The ceilings were made from reeds and clay from the mosses.
The walls of the house are two to three foot thick, uneven and slanting.
The foundation of the porch is half of a wooden waterwheel, once used at the mill. All the bedrooms have peepholes in the doors, through which parents could check on their children.
Mr. and Mrs. George Hudson owned Strickland Tenement, rearing cattle and growing garden produce, which he took by horse and cart, to sell in Windermere. He supplied hotels with vegetables and dressed poultry. George reminded Dennis Inman of Neville Chamberlain, with his looks and turned back, starched collar and tie! In the early 1930s Winnie Hudson married Henry Walling and Bob Hudson married Edith Walling, making a double tie between the two families. Local marriages were common in the past. Today, young people, go away to university or find work further afield so that such marriages are not as common.
The first farm at Tarnside nestles into the hollow, beside the road, at Tarnside corner. In the 1920s it was farmed by the Walling family.
Matthew Walling was a pioneer of the haulage business, together with Harry and Tommy. They were the first people in the area to have a motorised cattle wagon. The first one was small, with drop sides and a hinged door for access.
Harry moved to Strickland Tenement, a small farm across the road, carrying on the haulage business. His son, Robin, is now the farmer, occasionally still doing cattle and straw haulage and supplying cattle feed. Tommy went to West View Farm. He also did cattle haulage. When he retired he sold the business to Geoff Taylor of Underbarrow.
The Shepherd family farmed the second Tarnside farm, along the lane. In the 1970s there was still a metal plate over the kitchen fire, on which crushed oats were mixed with water and cooked into small cakes.
There was also a large crane to hold the kettle and shutters at the windows. The Shepherds grew a variety of root crops, corn, barley and oats. They always had a good crop. Amelia Shepherd still sang songs that she had learnt at school, when she was well over 80 years old.
Until the day he died in 1978, Bill Shepherd would not allow a tractor on his land, even if someone wanted to help him! He always used a horse to do the work. Unlike the majority of farmers he was against foxhunting, vowing that hunting disturbed the foxes and that poultry was always mutilated on the day after the hunt.
The third farm was where Jack and Mary Myers lived and farmed from 1943 to 1958, before moving on to Durham Bridge. It is now farmed by Mr. Gibson.
Tower Hill has an intriguing history. The date of the building is not known, although the castellation on the lean-to may give a clue as to when it was built. The late Mrs. Phelps, granddaughter of Elizabeth Pearson, who lived there at the turn of the century, told Pam Bownass the tale of Elizabeth's time at Tower House. She was the daughter of John Fenton Pearson of High Yews. At Tower House, she catered for visitors and served teas. She let a room to Dr Dobson from Windermere, to use as his surgery, one day a week. In 1897, she married Timothy Hunt, one of her visiting travellers from Liverpool, who was a widower with two daughters. Elizabeth's mother, Jane Pearson, had come to live with her daughter, after the death of her husband, in 1892. She died, in August 1910, followed two weeks later by her daughter, Elizabeth, both in suspicious circumstances. Timothy Hunt lived at Tower House, with his daughters for a while, then sold up and returned to Liverpool.
Kit Newton and his wife Lizzie moved to Crosthwaite in 1927, during the Depression. They found lodgings at Tower Hill. They rented half the house. Two sons and a daughter were born there. Kit found work at Starnthwaite School for Epileptic Children and was there until he retired.
When the landlady died, the family was able to occupy the whole house.
One guest at the house was especially interesting. His name was Jack Armistead. He came with his brother Ike. They came for their holidays, from Salford, because one had a son, resident at Starnthwaite School.
Jack was a cartoonist for the Daily Herald. He was also a magician. The Newton family often received letters from the brothers. Jack always illustrated the envelopes with cartoons. The family treasures these to this day! Soon after purchasing the property in the 1950s, Kit and Lizzie started to redecorate the house. When they removed some of the wallpaper, a painting of a young boy in 19th century clothes was revealed. They also uncovered a picture of a small angel on the ceiling.
Some time later, behind the wallpaper in a cupboard, they found a portrait of a Captain Parry, Commander of the Polar Expedition to find the North West Passage; how or why it is there remains a mystery.
An amusing incident happened in the early 20th century whilst two honeymooners were staying at the house. They received a letter addressed as follows:-
To a honeymoon couple named BANT,
Who are now staying with their aunt,
At a house on the Green,
Where a clock may be seen.
You'll ken him by his hair, Which is scant.
The clock is still in working order today.
This farm is situated right in the middle of Crosthwaite village. It was probably built in the 19th century. It comprises a farmhouse, cottage and outbuilding. It has now been converted into a large house. The outbuilding is a separate cottage. The Walling family farmed it as recently as 1970-80.
William Winder had the tenancy at the turn of the century. He was married to the granddaughter of the village blacksmith. They lived in Winster at first, before moving to West View. William was apprenticed to Flemmings, builders and joiners, for six years from 1898. He was then employed by Pattisons, builders, in Windermere. He started his own building business in Crosthwaite and it was he who helped to build Beech Bungalow and many other houses around the district. He had one daughter, Annie, who married Tommy Walling of Tarnside. Tommy farmed at West View with his son, Bryan, and his cousin, Bob Hudson.
They had some spectacular successes at the Royal Show at Stoneleigh, where they took their pedigree cattle. They also had a Supreme Champion at the Royal Highland Show.
Amongst the other homes, which lie under Whitbarrow Scar, in the hamlets of the Row and the Howe, one man owned five farms in the 18th century. These farms were Flodder, Johnscales, Grassgarth, Rusmickle and Draw Well.
Their owner was Thomas Knipe. His will made in 1739, revealed that, although heavily in debt, he still owned all five farms, as well as other property in the area. It was not long before the farms were sold, following the death of Tobias, Thomas Knipe's son, in 1743. Grassgarth went to Thomas Dixon for £400; Rusmickle, along with two other farms, to John Wilson of Lyth, for £615/10s; Draw Well to Stephen Bell of Lyth for £158 and Flodder to William Yeats for £1,307/10s
The 1881 Census records that the Inmans were at Draw Well, the Bennets at Flodder Hall, the Hoggarths at Rusmickle and the Pricketts at Johnscales, although the property was, by then, owned by the Argles family.
Flodder Hall was rebuilt in the early 17th century, retaining parts of the original building. It is an imposing farm, with its tall chimneys, mullioned windows, large rooms and four staircases. Tobias Knipe has his name inscribed on the oak beam in the main room, with the date 1606. Legend has it that the inscription carved on an old tablet in the porch is the work of Samuel Knipe, who died in 1645. It reads:
Si sapiens fore vis
Sex serva quae tibi mando;
Quid loqueris et ubi
De quo cui quomodo quando
"If you wish to be a wise man, observe these six things, which I command you. What you say, and where, of whom, to whom, how and when." In the early part of the 20th century, a Mr. and Mrs. Cottam lived at Flodder. She would dress up a group of local boys as Jolly Boys, every Easter. They would tour the surrounding farms and hamlets, performing a play. They collected eggs and money from the wassailing, which went to charity. The text for the Song and Play can be found in Appendix C in the book itself. Bill Sharp's son, Edward, farms there now.
Johnscales was sold by the Argles family in the 1990s to the Denney family, who came there from the Ulverston area. Garnetts, Dodds, Pricketts and Stotts have all been tenant farmers there, as have the Machell family, who were at Johnscales during the Second World War. The Westmorland Gazette reported in 1937, that poor weather had spoilt The Boon Day for George Machell. They were probably the first in the valley to have a Fordson tractor. The farm also had a man-made reservoir. The water was used to drive a turbine which, in turn, drove the machinery. In 1952 a fire destroyed the barn.
There are blow wells at Johnscales, which are said to be immensely deep. In times of flood, sea fish have reputedly been caught from them. They may be fed from a lake under Whitbarrow, which could lead out to the sea at Foulshaw. Both Johnscales and Flodder had water turbines for grinding the corn.
Grassgarth became part of the Argles Estate in the 19th century. Ben Edwards, the gamekeeper, lived at Grassgarth. He was involved in illegal cock-fighting. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson now own the farmhouse.
In 1879 John Moon sold Rusmickle to Frank Argles for £6,200. Tenants included the Philipsons, Hoggarths, Inmans, Wilsons, Masons, Brennands and Parks. Originally there were two separate holdings at Rusmickle but one has long since been demolished. Bill and Yvonne Sharp purchased the farm from the Argles family and live there now.
Draw Well, built around 1640, nestles into the side of the hill. It was reputedly home to the Inman family for over 300 years. James Inman, the father, affectionately known as "Whiskers", was born in 1867. He married Rebecca, known as "Becca", and had five children. William, the eldest, died in 1917, a prisoner of war in the First World War. His name appears on the wooden memorial cross, which now stands adjacent to the organ in St. Mary's Church, Crosthwaite. Archie, Sally, James and Bert were the remaining children. James and Bert were the last to live at the farm. They left to live in a bungalow, which they built above the farm, in 1969.
At Draw Well, they cultivated over 700 damson trees. They were the last farmers in the valley to use horse-drawn machinery, to make butter in the churn and deliver it on a bike, to milk by hand, to salt hams and to thresh by using a flail, also using a "ginny ring", where the horse walked in a circle, attached to a cog, which operated a thresher in the barn, above. One of their remedies was to thread a tape soaked in turpentine through the neck skin of a cow. This cured the "hoose" or cough. Up until the 1950s, Jimmy used to take the horse to pasture over the River Gilpin, between Low Farm and Dawson Fold, he on his bike, leading the horse by its rein. They were said to be the first to ride a penny-farthing bicycle, in the valley.
Cragg lies at the top of a track leading from what used to be the Howe School. In 1935 it was the home of Robert Burrows. During the Second World War Mr. Brooks, who was in charge of the Agricultural Land Service, owned it. He also had a business selling rockery stones. He employed a land girl called Mamie. She was in charge of the farm side of his business, although there were only ever one or two Jersey cows to milk. She slept in a hut at the top of the drive!
After Mr. Brooks, the property changed hands several times. Mr. Coleman was the next owner. He had the first television set in the Howe. He invited all the ladies to watch the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten on November 20th 1947.
He was followed by the Hopes, Carters and Websters. Mr. Webster was an author. He left Cragg to enter the Houses of Parliament as an MP. Now called Cragg Howe it is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Whitaker.
The Howe School opened its doors at Easter 1872, as a result of the 1870 Education Act. At that time villages relied on local benefactors and Crosthwaite and Lyth were fortunate in having the Argles family. Canon Marsham Argles donated the land and Mr. Frank Argles paid for the building. The first Headmistress was Miss Jane Firth.
The school was housed in the building, which is now a private house. It could educate thirty to forty children, sons and daughters of the local farm workers, quarrymen and other craftsmen. The numbers swelled by eleven during the Second World War, when evacuees from Sunderland, Newcastle and Barrow were billeted with families in the valley.
The school closed at Easter 1946, when the Headmistress, Alice Davidson, moved to Heversham C of E School. At that time only seven children were being taught at the Howe School. Managers of the school agreed to the closure, as long as satisfactory conveyance was provided for the children to their new schools. The three youngest pupils presented Alice Davidson with a reading lamp and a cheque, from past and present scholars and friends.
Hartley Trotter Senior bought the farm, Howe Lodge, from the Argles family, when he left The High in the 1920s. He made his son, Hartley Junior, a tenant there. The original 24 acres were increased to 52 acres, when more land was purchased. The Trotters kept cows, sheep, pigs and free-range leghorn hens, which roamed the orchards. Milking and buttermaking in the early days was done by hand. Crops grown were potatoes, peas, oats, mangolds, turnips, kale and some vegetables. Orchards of damsons, plums, apples and pears surrounded the farm. Plum varieties were Victoria, Czar, Rivers Early, Greengage, Merryweather, Burnham and Monarch; apples, Bramley, Keswick, Red Victoria, Mere de Menage, Bridget and Worcester; pears, Hazel, Williams and Sugar.
The farm produce was taken to Kendal Market by horse-drawn cart, early in the morning to secure a good pitch. Peats were graved and stored for use in the kitchen range and the washing boiler. The boiler was used to clean milking equipment and to make gruel for calf and pig feed. Hay was hand worked and carted loose to the barn at Howe Lodge. Sharps had to be fitted into the horses' shoes to enable them to pull heavy loads up Draw Well hill. Later a Dutch barn was built on the lowland, to save this haul up the hill. Electricity, mains water, the arrival of the little grey Fergie and mechanical milking made farming life easier.
Hartley Senior and his wife, Jane, lived in part of the farmhouse. He kept his hand in, planting fruit trees and currants and selling the produce in Kendal Market. They celebrated their Golden and Diamond Wedding Anniversaries there. When Hartley Senior died in his 90s, the farm passed to his grandson, Hartley, Hartley Junior having been tragically killed by a fall, whilst picking fruit.
Gilpin Bank was part of the Argles Estate. Built on a distinctive seawashed limestone outcrop, the house has an interesting feature called a "coffin hole". Because the staircase was narrow and circular, full coffins could not be carried downstairs, so there was a rudimentary lift or trapdoor on the landing. In this way the coffin could be lowered to the ground by a wooden platform attached to ropes.
In 1859 the Westmorland Gazette reported that Richard Rigg and William Bowness had sold 200 cattle and 25 horses, suggesting it was a large and prosperous farm. Another report in 1858 told of half a haystack, burnt by a thunderbolt. The Downhams, Philipsons and Inmans have also farmed there and, more recently, John Casson who lived there for 60 years. He was one of the last in the area to use horses and rued the day in 1963, when he succumbed to "progress" and bought a tractor. Less well trained than the horses, it was known to run away, driverless, on occasions! Independent to the end, John had a generator, which supplied electricity until about 1970. He also had his own well until the late 1980s, when additional pumped drainage in the valley lowered the water table. The water supply dried up, almost overnight. When he died in 1998, Mr. and Mrs. Edmondson bought the house and buildings.
There were formerly two farmsteads with the name Whitebeck. One became The Plough Inn and was demolished for road widening, also Low House next to Whitebeck Bridge, now in ruins. Its last occupants were the Dobson family who, tragically, lost several of their children with typhus in the 1880s. The surviving messuage was built probably early in the 18th century, having stone and arched lintels over sash windows, fitted in 1870, replacing the original leaded casements. It contains an early 18th century fireplace with a corbelled head. The adjoining underhoused shippon and barn of four bays may be earlier. Built into the slope are later buildings. The former peathouse of four bays has re-used cruck roof timbers. The shippon retains timber-framed slate "skell boose" partitions.
The first recorded owners were the Parmekers or Parnters. The seating list for Crosthwaite Chapel, dated 1669 (based on an earlier indenture of 1535), gave the Parnters seats on the south side. Curiously the tradition of sitting on the south side has continued to the present day by the Whitebeck owners. The gentry were allocated better seats, the owners of Cowmire and The High sat in the choir.
The Parnters left in the early 18th century, to lease the extensive Nether Levens Hall farm and were followed, as customary tenants, by the Noble, Dickinson and Dowker families. William Dowker sold it to Thomas Strickland of Hyning in 1747 for £205/2s, who gave it to his daughter, Margaret, the wife of Robert Dacre. They were succeeded by their son, George, who was awarded 20 acres of land, by the Heversham Inclosure Commissioners, replacing rights of turbary on Cocks Mossgarazing rights and brakendales on Crosthwaite Fell. Robert, his son, was a noted huntsman, a contemporary of John Peel. His intemperate habits led to his death by drowning in the River Pool in 1864. His hunting horn, curved and battered, has survived. "Lile Bobby Dacre" left the farm, now increased in size by the purchase of the nearby Brow Head, to his nephew George Dacre Taylor who resisted attempts by the Argles family to acquire the property. He planted several acres of damson and apple trees, in addition to the existing orchards.
James Inman, who became the bearded patriarch of Draw Well, lived as a child at Whitebeck Smithy Cottage. His first job, as a seven year old, was to scare birds at Whitebeck. Following George Taylor's death in 1901, it was left to his sons, Dacre Walker and Frank. His widow, Sabina Sanderson, had dower rights and continued to support the cottage mission, which had a meeting room at Whitebeck.
In 1917 the heavy crop of damsons was tsansported to Sandside by the Taylor's horse-drawn lurry. 64 tons were sent to Hills of Bradford. Many were picked by the Women's Land Army. Another buyer took 2471/2 tons from the valley to make jam for the army, a deal brokered by the newly formed Damson Growers' Association. The price was 2s/6d a score.
The Taylor brothers retired in 1936. Their sister Ruth and her husband Will Hutchinson took over the farm with their daughter Sabina (Ina), who married the Revd George Holmes, Methodist circuit minister at Helperty. She returned to Whitebeck, when her husband volunteered for military service in 1940.
Towards the end of the War, Italian prisoners picked fruit in the valley. A few returned after the War. They included Bruno Branchini at Dodds Howe, Ferdinand Collona at Whitebeck and Salvatore Citino at Esp Ford and Whitebeck.
Whitebeck is currently occupied by Desmond Holmes, his wife Helen and daughter Caroline Dacre.
John Wilson moved to Yews, from Grasmere, in 1924 with his family. He was six years old at the time. His family had been proprietors of the Swan and also official shepherding "guides", forerunners of the famous Guides Race at the Grasmere Sports. They may well have guided William and Dorothy Wordsworth over the fells, when they first lived there. He ran the farm with his wife, Ivy (a land army girl in the Second World War) and family of four sons, after his father moved to Beech Bungalow in Cowslip Field. His son, Colin, the third generation of Wilsons, lives there now.
Low Yews is unusual, in that it has a barn built onto each end of the house. The yew tree has probably been there for 400 or 500 years, longer than the house itself. Nearby is a different species of yew, maybe Irish yew, also a horse chestnut. Fields belonging to the farm were called Near, Far, Seedfield, Cowslip, Cherry Tree, and Fay. Oral tradition speaks of wheat being grown in Cherry Tree field during the Napoleonic Wars.
This farm once had a date stone over the front door, which read 1835. It was occupied for years by Mr. and Mrs. Middlebrough and their large family. They were very hard working. They had a sheep-dipping tub which needed the sheep to be lifted manually into the four to five foot high tub and lifted out again. The sheep were heavy with their wet fleece, of course. In addition to the usual green crops and fruit, they grew strawberries by the acre and also chrysanthemums for market. In the First World War several of their sons joined the cavalry. Two of them, who paid the ultimate price, are remembered on the Memorial in St Mary's Church.
Willie Cottam, from Witherslack, took over the tenancy and farmed there successfully. When he retired, his son Dougie and wife Sylvia carried on farming at Yew Tree. They had two daughters, both of whom went into nursing and also two sons. Their elder son, Andrew, is now continuing in his father's footsteps, farming full-time.